South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, will gazette a proposal to create one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world around the Prince Edward Islands. South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, will gazette a proposal to create one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world around the Prince Edward Islands.
The Marine Protected Areas MPAs) located in the Southern Ocean, will also be South Africa’s first “Offshore MPA”.
The gazetting of the proposal followed a five years process during which a scientific plan and a draft management plan were developed in collaboration with other role players.
The objectives of the MPA are:
- to contribute to a national and global system of protected areas
- to provide scientific reference points for research
- to contribute to the ecologically sustainable management of marine resources and
- to reduce ecological impacts of fisheries, particularly on endangered seabirds.
The proposal is in line with South Africa’s new “National Protected Area Expansion Strategy” which seeks to structure the way in which protected areas are declared to maximise benefits.
This strategy drew attention to South Africa’s lack of offshore protected areas, and put forward the Prince Edward Islands as a priority area.
The structure of the proposed MPA reflects its multiple objectives. Firstly there is a 12 nautical mile (22,2km) Sanctuary Area around the islands, where all activities are strictly controlled and no fishing is allowed.
Secondly there are four Restricted Areas, in three of which very limited fishing is allowed, including for the purpose of scientifically monitoring the stocks of Patagonian Tooth-fish. The level of this fishing in these areas will be reviewed in the future however, in terms of an adaptive management approach, which is also new to MPA regulation in South Africa.
No bottom trawl allowed
In the Controlled Areas, which comprise the rest of the MPA, fishing will be allowed with certain gear types only, excluding bottom trawling for example. All fishing vessels will have observers on board (as per current arrangement) to ensure that the regulatory measures are respected, including the new mitigation measures to protect seabirds.